Category Archives: For kids 5-10

Summer activities for children and adults at Lee Tung Avenue

I enjoy living in Wan Chai very much. Not only is it one of the most convenient neighbourhoods in Hong Kong (it’s flat!) but it’s got a lot going on in all the hustle bustle. Add to it the latest transformative development, Lee Tung Avenue with good marketeers and the place on this side of Wan Chai is an attraction for families and young (or slightly older) hipsters.

This summer has been scorching hot, now with the holidays on, families have been scratching heads as to what to do with restless children. 

Lee Tung Avenue has a Saturday evening activity for kids which could be fun to check out.

According to the poster, it’s based on the Shakespearean Midsummer night’s dream in honour of Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary.


On until the 27th of August 2016, the activities of kiddy face painting, fairy dancing workshop and the fairy flash mob dancing take place conveniently around dinner time… Great for parents who want to grab a meal and let the kids roam on a pedestrianised street mall for a bit out of the air conditioned environment.

A friend who lives in Wan Chai also told me about her recent visit to Ophelia, the latest “it” place for younger hipsters. She described it as very opulent and glamorously decorated. For that corporate event, there were dancers and lots of drinks going around, undoubtedly making the place even cooler. My friend said that it’s a place you can only get into if you have a reservation, the bouncers are very strict at the street entry level. If your name isn’t on the list, you can’t even get up there.

Then while waiting for a medical appointment, I read about it in a magazine called Crave.


And decided to see where it is located.

A temporary signboard marks the lift lobby location (more or less near the Elephant hairdressers, nearer Le Pain Quotidien).
When I checked again later on, the signboard had been removed, so I guess the staff only place it out when they are expecting guests. 

Here’s a write up on Ophelia’s in the SCMP. Unfortunately I doubt they’d let me in with a toddler in tow… Although Mr Sutton should allow this during the day as part of his fairy story legacy for the younger generation. Is it all linked to the fairy promo going on in the central piazza? Maybe.

 

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Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool

Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool Opening Schedule

It’s been crazy crazy hot in Hong Kong recently, too hot for long outdoor walks and “too hot for scootering” my toddler tells me.

So we’ve resorted to swimming. Not to Shek O beach which is our usual weekend morning hang out (it’s also way too hot even at 8am now and the water has been filthy the past 3 weekends), but the swimming pool in our building and the public pool 10 minutes down the road. 

Our indoor pool isn’t heated, it gets quite chilly in the evenings, the ventilation has got to be on to keep air circulation going but this ends up having a cooling effect whenever any part of your body is out of the water.

So, we tried going to the nearby Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool. It’s a horrible walk there from Queens Road East, unless you already live in the Oi Kwan Road area, we prefer to take the bus one long stop to Tang Shiu Kin Hospital rather than inhaling 10 mins worth of unrelenting traffic PM 2.5 excreta. 


The pool costs less than HKD 20 to enter. It’s pretty cheap and many people do use it.. We’ve been several times now and it’s been busy whether it’s day or night. 


The swimming complex has a number of pools; the main swimming pool for serious lap- lane swimmers, the indoor exercise and teaching pool, the outdoor training pool and the toddler pool. 


Upon entry into the complex, you are funnelled into the separate male / female changing areas, where there are lockers, benches and showers. Then a walk down a corridor to the rain showers to rinse you a little before the pool area. 

There’s also a family changing room but this is locked and opened only on request.


Lots of interesting little signs with advice…


The female changing room is pretty spacious, but it can fill up on weekends and there are half or fully naked women occupying almost every bit of the changing area. Don’t be intimidated, one just needs to find an empty locker and eek out a space.


After you’re changed into your swim gear and put your valuables away, it’s time to head over to the pool.


I’ve included here a way to keep your things dry while going through the shower… Hold your things out to the side as you walk through the curtain of water.

The first pool you get to is the main indoor swimming pool. Here, it’s filled with the experienced swimmers doing exercise laps. It’s all speedos, goggles and swimming caps in this pool. Kids occupy the far section near the bleachers, then it’s a few shared swimming lanes that you can join if you think you can keep up, and an open area where people are free to carve out their own lane. 


The outdoor training pool was the one our toddler liked best. Warm water with a view and lots of people packing it out at all times. Kids splashing, parents yelling, even adults learning to swim. You pretty much see it all there. 


The poolside deckchairs are by no means comfortable but they do offer a tired mommy a place to sit and watch if the weather is good. The benches in the shade on the far side are a lot less pleasant and I got bitten by mosquitoes there once.


There’s also a toddler pool at the very end, it’s very shallow and intentionally isolated. There was no one there in the evenings so I guess it’s popular mostly in the mornings and late afternoons.


After the swim, head back up to the changing room for a hot shower.

Then exit as you entered 🙂

Note that pool cleaning day is Wednesday, so the pool is shut.

Salsa Party in Wan Chai this weekend 12th March

 Thanks to the Sassy magazine of which I’m a regular reader, I now know that there’s a salsa party happening this Saturday. The forecast is for rain so I have no idea whether there’s a wet weather plan or if it will continue regardless. 

Update: it’s being held at Hej House, more or less directly opposite Le Pain Quotidien.

  
Outside Le Pain Quotidien, there’s a big music set up going on. A bit unclear if this will be leading up to it or if it’s their own launch party. 

I’ve been waiting for LPQ to open for a while…. Teething problems must have delayed them from the planned launch in February (website recently changed opening date to March). Many disappointed customers have stood outside, shaken their heads and headed elsewhere. 

  
How can you possibly advertise breakfast yet open for business at only 11am? Quite unacceptable.

The Wan Chai Green Trail

Hong Kong’s dramatic natural scenery provides a really fantastic backdrop for photos on a clear day. There’s the lush green mountains and the dark swirling ocean waters of the harbour. 

If you live well, it’s likely that you have an apartment that has a view of the mountains, the ocean, or both (that’s living very well).

Hong Kong has reclaimed a significant amount of land by filling in the harbour instead of building uphill. Residential development has gradually crept up the mountain but high prices for these properties (probably due to the cost of infrastructure installation and government regulation) keeps this in check. Interestingly, the residential area that borders the green lung is termed “upper edge“. 

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The Wan Chai Green Trail starts at sea level in Wan Chai and ascends rapidly through the upper edge and up the mountain slope.

 

Bamboo Grove Condo, upper edge
 
It starts by the old Wan Chai post office (next to the Fresh Grower vegetable shop) and leads up to Kennedy Road. 

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Wan Chai Green Trail

This trail head isn’t particularly scenic, so our recommendation is that you walk up to Kennedy road via Stone Nullah Lane. 

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If you came up by the post office, the trail should be straight ahead of you i.e. just across the road. If you came up by Stone Nullah Lane, cross the road at the traffic right and turn right towards the huge condo development known as Bamboo Grove. The trail begins again here with some stairs and a signboard.

Depending on your level of fitness, you may consider the slope steep (or not). The incline I would estimate is about 20% but your thighs and heart rate might make you guess something closer to 30%. If it’s your first time, take a few breaks to admire the skyline and greet the people meandering down the slope… Some of whom go backwards.

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At a normal walking pace, and no long breaks, you should reach the intersection with Bowen road within 10 minutes. There are some benches right here on the cross roads and more seating areas to the left. There’s also a public toilet if you need to use one. 

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Feeling comfortable? Continue upwards. This next stretch is less steep than the one you just came up and winds around to the left. There are some nice views over Wan Chai / Causeway Bay Area, and if you look up through the tree canopy, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of Hong Kong’s most expensive condos jutting out from woodland into open sky. There are also some impressive ravines where water runs down after a rain, presumably down through the Stone Nullah underground box culverts to the sea. 

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After a hairpin bend, the path steepens again as you head up toward the gap. This last stretch often has walkers resting on the side, bikers walking their bikes and some dog lovers carrying their beloved pooches (eh!). It may feel never ending but fear not, once you see the Dutch Lane intersection, you’re pretty much there. 

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The entire ascent usually takes me less than 25 minutes. Husband carries the baby and walks ahead. He does it in about 15 minutes, but I tell him it’s not a competition. 

The trail literally spits you out onto a rather tricky traffic intersection. It’s on a bend and all the automobiles coming downhill usually do so with fearsome speed. Best to walk either to the right or left to get a clear view before you cross. Refer to the black line drawn on the map above.

The Wan chai gap/ Coombe road children’s playground (map) is straight ahead.

Note to parents

  1. It’s steep. Try not to bring your pram unless you’re including a pram as a workout weight. I have seen parents doing this though.
  2. It’s steep. Don’t let your kid bring his bike/ scooter to ride up this trail unless you plan on carrying it for him/ her / them.
  3. It’s steep. Do watch your kids as the railings near the ravines aren’t jail bars. My husband tells me kids have fallen through before.
  4. It’s steep….whether you’re going uphill or downhill. Tell the kids not to run downhill lest they want some new scars to boast about. Downhill is a test for knee caps, try going slow.
  5. Get your kids to walk it if you can, the playground (and ice cream) is the incentive. They’ll be so wiped out after the playground you’ll be able to enjoy a quiet dinner.

Indoor playground for Toddlers

If there’s one thing worse than being in an outdoor playground when it’s hot, it’s being there when it’s full of people so there’s nowhere to sit, AND full of mosquitoes that leave horrible welts on your calves for weeks (horrible Hong Kong Park).

It was in the height of summer last year that I discovered Spring. How did I hear about it? A minibus went by with an ad for it and I googled the address and went to check it out.

What a fantastic find. A large open indoor play space with natural light in Wan Chai only exists here. Unfortunately Baumhaus, despite a better location (recently opened on Queens Road East) cannot compare. Combine that with great interior design and warm friendly staff who know when to leave you alone.

Toddler exercise zone
Constantly changing toddler exercise zone


Small person has spent an immeasurable amount of time there ever since. She took to it right away, the toddler exercise area changes every week, providing new challenges. The indoor swings were a huge hit with her, I’m always moving furniture out of the way for maximum amplitude.

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natural light, thoughtful furniture design

The padded stairs, tree house and slide are superb areas for toddlers to work out their little leg muscles. And it’s all cleverly designed so that a small adult can also fit in it if necessary. The glass windows provide a direct visual of the kids and serves to reduce the racket their making.. Very well thought out.

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Park your kid, your pram and yourself

I love that I can sit for a while and perhaps speed read a magazine, have a drink and luxuriate for a few minutes in a nice loo.

Aside from cooking and mandarin classes, small person spends her time with kitchen play sets, train tracks, Lego and other dexterity building toys in the toy zone. Depending on where you sit, as it is an open concept space, it’s possible to keep an eye or ear on your toddler wherever they are.

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Barefoot babies, bring your socks mummies

The play space you’ll get to use for free if you sign up for at least one of their myriad of classes (cooking, language, art, sports, dance….). Though I’m sure that if you’re in the neighbourhood and just need to set your child down for a while, the staff will let you in. 
Spring is on the 3rd floor of a commercial building. There’s lots of parking for cars nearby. You can get the tram to Tonnochy if it’s too far from the MTR (but remember,
no prams on the trams) If you’re coming on foot like me, there are two entrances to the building, via Gloucester Road ( big orange highway) or Jaffe Road. Jaffe road is also known as Food Street in Wan Chai, many delicious restaurants along here, most are mommy-pram friendly if you get there by 11am, before the lunch crowd starts. Otherwise, wait til 2pm and you’ll get your seat and less stressed wait staff.

A walk from Wan Chai to Aberdeen

You already know that it’s possible to hike across Hong Kong island. There are many trails running over the mountains and numerous hikers blazing through them every weekend. 

Most parents with babies and strollers restrict themselves to walking around the Peak or Hong Kong Park. Nothing wrong with that except that if you get off that beaten path, the route becomes quiet and you can hear running water and the chirping of birds in the bush. 

  
If you have about two hours and would like to do a relatively simple walk for exercise and fresh air, try this country walk to the first area of settlement in Hong Kong, Aberdeen.

  
We were relaxing (otherwise known as pfaffing or moping) at home while husband was out having a meeting with the boss. He came home at around 5pm to a very excited toddler who was dying to go to a playground. He remarked what a nice day it was and suggested we go on a W-A-L-K. To fulfill both expectations of playground and walk, we decided on the Aberdeen country park walk. This nicely paved, all-downhill walk (as long as you start where we did) is a very easy, quiet and shaded walk. 

Naturally small person didn’t want to leave Coombe road playground. The swing! The slide! The swing! The slide! She had to be forcibly removed with the promise of food. I fed her two herb boiled eggs and she was satiated and singing. To get the the start of the walk, exit Coombe Road playground, get on to Mount Cameron road on your right and then turn right again into Aberdeen Reservoir road. You’ll then see the sign for Aberdeen Country Park.

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We started off at around 5.30pm, it was already starting to get dark. The moon rose and the raptors were circling waiting for the night hunt to commence.

It soon got too dark to take any photos, so take it from me that it is a very green trail and perfectly suited to a stroller. There are no stairs or bumps in the road. 

  
There are bins along the way if you need to toss the diaper or food wrapper. Toilets are only at the beginning and end of the walk. 

Look out for a junction where you see a big deep drain on your right, turn right and walk along it, it will lead you straight down into Aberdeen. The park will end near a barbecue/ picnic area and you will suddenly find yourself walking on a concrete pavement going downhill all the way towards bright city lights with fifty or more people who are leaving the barbecue area. Not to worry, this crowd thins out very quickly. 

Stay on the left pavement going down and you will see traffic light at the bottom of the hill. Cross and walk straight along that road, crossing another one into Aberdeen Square. It looks very messy and people are everywhere, get into the main square area where there are shops and people generally hanging out by the decorative fountain in the Center. You’ll know when you’re there by the mock chinese gates that you’ll have to walk through.

  
Best bet for a reliable dinner was the Tai Hing. There was a queue but it moved quickly and that’s where we ended up for a hearty meal.

A short taxi ride or the green minibus 4B or 4C takes you straight through the tunnel back to Wan Chai.

Coombe Road Children’s Playground

This playground is very very popular on weekends. There are two playgrounds separated by a road. One for the young ones 2-5 years of age ( climbing frame and swings) and another for the 5-12 year olds which has a climbing frame, swings and a scooter/ skateboard zone.

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Families come from all over to let the kids go crazy on the slides, scooter around, buy bubble guns that shoot out a stream of bubbles… Every kid wants one of those.

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Then there’s the fairground atmosphere of adults and children eating as they play, instead of cotton candy floss and lollipops, think local snacks, fish balls, steamed Siew Mai and herbal boiled eggs (my favourite… try it for $5 per egg). The little concession stand does milk teas and coffees, hot or cold, ovaltine and Horlicks. The fridge stocks most soft drinks that you can think of and there’s an array of candy, chips and chocolate to choose from. Let’s not forget the ice cream. There’s the usual Walls type ice cream available, cones and sticks. They only accept cash so make sure you bring change.

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Amenities wise, there’s a public restroom, water coolers to refill your bottle and lots and clean benches to sit and eat. Or just sit. 

On a clear low pollution day, you can look out over the South side from the picnic area and enjoy the cool breeze rushing over the mountains. The falcons love it, look out for them soaring overhead. 

In the high humidity of summer, there are lots of mosquitoes so do not forget your bug spray. 

Access this playground via:

  1. No. 15 bus, catch it from Central or Wan Chai towards the Peak (possible with pram but depends on how crowded bus is, usually full of tourists with very big fancy cameras)
  2. Walk up Wan Chai Gap ( starts beside Bamboo Grove. Tough with pram, do not try going uphill unless super fit. Do not try going downhill unless someone else carries the baby.)
  3. Catch a taxi/ uber it up there

  
There are some nice pram friendly walks you can do from here (Black’s Link and Aberdeen Reservoir Walk), I’ll be detailing them in another post.